English teeth

English teeth, English teeth,
Shining in the sun.
English teeth, happy teeth,
Each and every one.

Spike Milligan

I predict that you are wondering how anyone could have written such a poem. After all, what is more hilarious than English teeth? What nation has worse dental care?

Well, clearly the British don’t share your view. When I moved here back in the ’90s Austin Powers was ubiquitous and I remember someone whipping out a set of joke Powers teeth. I heard other cracks about English teeth and slowly realized that this was a national stereotype. For me, it was a new concept. Never before had I thought the English had bad teeth. My consciousness was being raised and not in a good way.

Growing up, my mother was obsessed with dental hygiene, ensuring regular trips to the dentist and a couple of years of braces for me. But even she had never been introduced to flossing.

Once this new awareness had lodged itself in my brain, I started to look at people’s teeth when I went back to England. I was startled. They were awful! Years with no flossing, over-consumption of tea, and lack of orthodontia resulting in mouths of stained, jumbled teeth with gum disease. I was shocked, stunned, and amazed. Many of these people were my friends and family. How could we not know? Why didn’t anyone tell us?

I transitioned from flossing a couple of times a week to a daily routine. When I went to the dentist and had a thorough cleaning, I realized that English dentists were only ever cleaning the teeth above the gum line and not digging down into that critical area of grossness below. I would stumble out of the dentist’s with a bloody, painful mouth, but with the joy of rebirth into a new dentally strong world. In fact, my dentist has declared that I have the best British teeth in his practice.

But, I’m here to tell you that other Europeans are as bad, if not worse. I personally know of a gentleman from a small European country famous only for being the home of the EU and TinTin. His penchant for a certain brand of English toffee led to an infamous chewing session in which five of his teeth departed their weak and rotten gums to land firmly in the sticky swamp of toffee. Yes, FIVE.

That’s why Spike Milligan never wrote about Belgian teeth.

8 responses to “English teeth”

  1. Scotty says:

    Yes, we Americans have been fortunate enough to benefit from superior dental care. I often think of a story that my better told me about being in Germany: she went to the dentist for a free cleaning only to be denied because — though in her mind she was due – the dentist didn’t find her teeth stained enough to warrant his services.

    It is the cattiness on the part of Americans due to our expectations about oral health (and other types of bodily fitness) that I find to be obnoxious and a little effed up. If we were to be totally honest in our mockery, we wouldn’t focus on minutia like oral health or bathing habits, we’d collectively point at Europe and say:

    “Ha ha! We didn’t get destroyed by two world wars, and you did. In fact, we actually benefited from the rest of the world being in complete chaos in the post-war years, and because of it we are on top of the heap, and check this out, we’ve got the pink, lovely gums to prove it!”

  2. Stephanie Wells says:

    Was anyone else a little heartbroken when David Bowie swapped out his cool jaggy-ziggy British teeth for those big horsey American dentures? I realize that British teeth are normally somewhat of a liability, but on him . . . they worked.

  3. lisa t. says:

    If Bowie ever wears one colored contact to cover up his beautifully flawed eye, the world has ended.

  4. cynthia says:


  5. Scotty says:

    Yes Steph, it was a tremendous loss — not unlike the Boss’s bulking-up for that ridiculous multi trillions selling piece of crapola.

  6. Clive says:

    I suffered horribly at the hands of British dentists asa child. My first one used to do fillings without any anaesthetic. He fled the police, apparently he was addicted to his own gas.
    There is a place where you can get dental treatment every bit as good as US dentistry but at a small fraction of the price: Mexico.
    In fact, any Brit needing serious work like root canals and crowns or implants. could almost certainly come to Mexico for a holiday, get all their dental treatment, and fly back, and still save money.

  7. Trixie Honeycups says:

    i am addicted to my own gas.

  8. Alex says:

    that’s true, in Mexico there are loads of great dentists for every need (those specialized in gums or in orthodoncy, etc) and some are incredibly cheap. Five years ago I went to get some fillings at the university lab and they did an amazing job!!! I went to a dentist recently and told me there was no need to replace those fillings yet…the best was that they cost me 3 dollars each!!!